As the free agency wheels begin to churn again, Brendan Haywood hopes to clear the air about his relationship with Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, which many perceived to have hit rocky times last season.
As Haywood gets closer to choosing between re-signing with Dallas or possibly joining Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade with the Miami Heat, Haywood said he's "never had a problem with Rick" and would have no problem playing for him again.
A rocky relationship was perceived after Carlisle's decision to first flip-flop Haywood in the starting lineup with Erick Dampier after Dampier returned from a finger injury, and then to permamently stick with Dampier as the starter down the stretch of the regular-season. But, Haywood helped to fuel speculation when asked about coming off the bench, he replied, "I just work here."
"It wasn’t particularly my choice," Haywood said Wednesday from his home in Charlotte, N.C. "But, I felt it was going to help us get to a championship so I was willing to do it."
There was speculation that Carlisle wasn't always pleased with Haywood's attention to detail at both ends of the court. Haywood said Carlisle's decision to start Dampier revolved around Carlisle's belief that Dampier would be more effecitive playing with the first unit, specifically Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki.
Haywood's minutes dropped from more than 30 a game as the starter when Dampier was sidelined to the mid-20s or less coming off the bench.
"Just because my minutes went down people thought I had a problem with him. He did what he thought was best for the team and he was very upfront about it. He told me about it," Haywood said of Carlisle. "He thought he needed to get Dampier ready for the playoffs if we were going to make a deep run. I was like, 'OK, if you feel that's best for the team than I'm going to fall in line with that.' He felt like Dampier, it was hard with him getting older and not being able to play with Jason Kidd; he felt the only way they were going to be able to get the best production out of him was for him to start and me to come off the bench because I could provide energy and offensive rebounding.
"I never had a problem with it. I understood where he was coming from."
Carlisle met with Haywood at his Charlotte, N.C., home at the start of free agency. Heat president Pat Riley is the only other team official to have a face-to-face meeting with Haywood. Carlisle assured Haywood that he will be the starting center "as the roster is set up right now," Haywood said, if the sides are able to reach a deal. The Heat, barring LeBron James also signing, will have the cap space to make Haywood a lucrative offer.
"I have a lot of respect for coach Carlisle. He has a lot of knowledge and he handled the situation upfront," Haywood said. "He would pull me in, let me know before or give me a call if I was going to start or if I wasn't going to start, so I always knew what was going on. So, I never had a problem with it at all. I want to clear that up. I hate seeing it because I haven't said anything -- I've been basically out of the media -- so I hate to see 'rocky relationship.' I don't have a rocky relationship with coach Carlisle. Our relationship is just fine."